Ethiopia is geographically a mixture of ancient historical kingdoms, and it was formed as a state in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Before that, this region was called Abyssinia.
The ancient kingdom of Abyssinia was founded by the Amhara tribe. It was considered a politically unstable empire, and it entered into conflicts with neighboring empires, such as the Ottoman Empire at the time.
European countries also witnessed a conflict with Ethiopia, Italy entered a war with it but was defeated in it with the help of Russia and France, then Italy re-established its colonies in Ethiopia and within parts of Eritrea. Ethiopia witnessed a civil war later, that war came as a result of being affected by external factors, including the emergence of national liberation movements, especially after the period of World War II, and the second factor, when the last king of Ethiopia decided to develop science and focus on building universities and schools, and as a result, the proportion of culture among people increased, which led to the emergence of political currents carrying different ideologies.
A first current has emerged that believes that Ethiopia is one nation despite the multi- ethnicity, but rather the Christian religion, Amharic language and culture bring them together. As for the second trend, it believed that the Ethiopian people were a mixture of races and that minority groups should gain their independence.
At the end of the sixties, the student movements revolted against the itchy elites because they rejected the false Ethiopian identity. A coup took place in 1974, and Ethiopia began pursuing the federal system to solve the problem of ethnic diversity and the right to self-determination, but then other problems appeared within the states themselves.
The geographical expansion of Ethiopia was at the expense of other countries such as Kenya, Sudan and Somalia as a result of this expansion, it led to a change in geography and population.
What is the Renaissance Dam (GERD)?
In 1953, Ethiopia decided to build a large dam on the Nile, but in that, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s relationship with Ethiopia was strong. Gamal Abdel Nasser sent Emperor Haile Selassie a letter asking him to stop the construction work of the dam as it represented a threat to Egypt. Accordingly, Ethiopia reduced the height of the dam from 112 meters to 11 meters. In 1959, Egypt and Sudan agreed to divide the waters that reach the two countries through the Blue Nile, the source of about 80% of the Nile’s water, amounting to 84 billion cubic meters.
In the era of Sadat, Ethiopia objected to extending the Nile waters to the Sinai, and Ethiopia again constructed the idea of building and developing dams. President Sadat responded in 1979 with a threat of force against any action taken by Ethiopia regarding the dam, then Ethiopia denied the idea of constructing the dam for fear of Egypt’s threats. After that, Sadat ordered the dam to be bombed secretly. During the era of President Hosni Mubarak, Ethiopia also threatened to bomb any dams built on the Nile and instructed African countries including Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi not to sign the Entebbe Agreement for the Nile Basin countries. After half a century, in 2011, Ethiopia began building the Grand Renaissance Dam, which sparked a new crisis between Ethiopia on the one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other hand, and then this crisis ended with the signing of a tripartite agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in 2015.
In the fifties, the site of the Renaissance Dam was determined for the first time by the United States Office of Reclamation of the American Departments of State without consulting Egypt. In 2011, the project to build the dam was initially assigned to the Italian company Salini, and the project to build the dam was called “Project X” and then the former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi Hajar. The foundation of the dam has been a rock crusher along with a small airstrip for rapid transit. 2011 The American company We Build awarded a contract of 4.8 billion US dollars to finance the project. On July 15, 2020, the Ethiopian Minister of Irrigation announced the start of filling the Renaissance Dam despite the lack of agreement between the three countries, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, stressing that the recent satellite images of the Renaissance Dam were correct.
The main purpose of building this dam for Ethiopia is to generate electricity and export it to its neighboring countries. The capacity of the Renaissance Dam is 74 billion cubic meters, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claims that the rains contributed to the completion of the first stage of filling the reservoir, but Egypt fears a temporary decrease in the availability of water due to the period of filling the tank and a permanent decrease due to evaporation from the water tank. otherwise as for the damage to Sudan because of this project the dam will retain the silt. Thus, the lifespan and benefit of dams in Sudan will be increased – such as the Roseires Dam, Sennar Dam and Meroe Dam – and the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. The beneficial and harmful effects of flood control will affect the Sudanese part of the Blue Nile, just as it will affect the Ethiopian part of the Blue Nile downstream of the dam.
The Interest of the Rest of the Major Countries in Supporting Both Sides
The interests of the major countries differ over the construction of the Renaissance Dam, as there is an agreement and military cooperation between Ethiopia and Russia to build the dam. There is a military technological cooperation agreement between Ethiopia and Russia that does not include the supply of weapons, but rather training in technological skills, especially with regard to the Ethiopian Air Force, such as the MG21, 23 and Sukhoi 27 aircraft.
The skills of the Ethiopian army may be considered insufficient for the Sukhoi aircraft, and also this type of aircraft is not defensively developed, but it reaches the Egyptian High Dam, at the same time, there is the Flamingo base. The Russian base located in the Red Sea serves Russia’s interests in the region. The base accommodates four ships, anchors for boats and cruisers, and includes war and defense systems, and about 80 soldiers and technicians, and their number is scheduled to reach 300 after the base is equipped. While the relationship between Russia and Egypt, political tension and mistrust between them began a history after the Camp David treaty between Egypt and Israel under American auspices. As well as Egypt’s support for Somalia, while Russia was supporting Ethiopia against Somalia.
Russia seeks to stabilize its presence in the Middle East, as it can preserve its allies despite its differences with its allies on some issues. For example, the Egyptian armament will not be affected by the Russian side. As well as relations with Turkey, despite Turkey’s presence in NATO, it maintains its relationship with Russia regarding the Russian S-400 missiles.
The Latest Developments in The Negotiations in Brussels
The Egyptian Foreign Minister visited Brussels in the past weeks, in which he discussed with European Union leaders his country’s position regarding the Renaissance Dam crisis, and the Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament stressed that a just solution to the crisis would spare the region from conflict. Also, in the past weeks, the Arab League called to discuss the crisis of the Renaissance Dam and held a meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha. Egypt put its reserves in the military options and worked to strengthen security and intelligence cooperation with neighboring countries such as Djibouti, as well as military exercises with Sudan. Of course, Egypt cannot carry out any strike. military without US approval.
As for the legal aspect, Egypt threatens to withdraw from the tripartite agreement that was held in 2015. The last scenario of what is happening around the project is not a military solution. Ethiopia is expected to document the project filling the reservoir for fear of flood, the European Union also criticizes the direction of the second mobilization carried out by Ethiopia, so any consequences that will result from this project will also be firm decisions from the European Union against Ethiopia.
Research by Jeelan Aburub